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Publisher's Summary

The number-one New York Times best-selling author of A Man Called Ove returns with a dazzling, profound novel about a small town with a big dream - and the price required to make it come true.

People say Beartown is finished. A tiny community nestled deep in the forest, it is slowly losing ground to the ever encroaching trees. But down by the lake stands an old ice rink, built generations ago by the working men who founded this town. And in that ice rink is the reason people in Beartown believe tomorrow will be better than today. Their junior ice hockey team is about to compete in the national semifinals, and they actually have a shot at winning. All the hopes and dreams of this place now rest on the shoulders of a handful of teenage boys.

Being responsible for the hopes of an entire town is a heavy burden, and the semifinal match is the catalyst for a violent act that will leave a young girl traumatized and a town in turmoil. Accusations are made, and, like ripples on a pond, they travel through all of Beartown, leaving no resident unaffected.

Beartown explores the hopes that bring a small community together, the secrets that tear it apart, and the courage it takes for an individual to go against the grain. In this story of a small forest town, Fredrik Backman has found the entire world.

©2017 Fredrik Backman (P)2017 S&S Audio

Critic Reviews

"Beartown is, at its heart, a hockey story. However, with author Backman telling that story and Marin Ireland performing it, this audiobook transcends the cliché of 'the big game' and becomes a multifaceted study of humanity, integrity, and loyalty. Ireland narrates in a remarkably adaptable way; her chameleon voice is devoted to developing character, and she's so effective that she makes the story come to the fore... Ireland nimbly skates her own way through a novel that is gorgeously written, meticulously plotted, and nearly perfectly performed. This one is not to be missed." (AudioFile)

What members say

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  • Gillian
  • Austin, TX, United States
  • 04-28-17

A Barrel To The Head, A Slug To The Gut--

This is the story of one young person putting the barrel of a shotgun to the head of another young person. It's the story of how big dreams die hard and little, more tender dreams die even harder. This is not your usual Fredrik Backman book; it has none of the fanciful tenderness, the sentimentality. It's a hard-hitting look at what a town, what its people, what its children will do when the worst happens and you realize you are alone, just you and your ability to look your children in the face saying, "I couldn't protect you", you and your ability to look in the mirror saying, "What does it mean to be human?"
I expected more of a "Miracle on Ice" component but I was sorely wrong and quite happy about it. Backman takes the love of parents, friends, siblings and piles it on; takes the tension and ratchets it up, notch by painful notch until you have nothing to do but look inside yourself and wonder if you can stand any more pain, any more human frailty, any more doubt when there are so many, many shades of gray.
Marin Ireland has a brittle tone, and I wondered why a male narrator wasn't gotten until I realized that the many female characters wouldn't have been done justice to. Ireland gets it right, plus she does male characters quite well. What's more: She doesn't stilt on the passion, and this is a passionate story.
If you're ready for a journey into the heart, mind, soul of a teenager get ready and dive in. If you're ready for a slap in the face, the realization that you'll do anything, anything for your children but be able to keep them safe, tip your toes in and go gently, inhaling as much as possible.
Backman's prose, his story, his style are breathtaking.

62 of 69 people found this review helpful

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Miserable

That's how I feel after enduring this book. I have read three other titles by this author and loved them. This book was very different. Oh yes, the writing was excellent, of course, but the story was painful all the way through.

From the very beginning the reader is set up for a terrible incident to occur. I felt nervous in anticipation. This is not a fun read. It is no fun to wait for something awful to happen. It was bad enough to feel that from the time the story begins, but as the characters are developed and the reader's fondness of them grows, it becomes worse and worse.

I wish I had not read this. I wish I had not put myself through this. I wish I had stopped early on when the story began and I did not feel interested, but continued because I was curious.

This may turn out to be an important book. This may become a movie. This may be studied in sociology or psychology or philosophy classes. But it had me nervous all the way through, and, even with its excellent writing, I wish I had not forced myself to endure it. The way it ended left me without the details I felt I deserved after all that.

I'll remember this story, these characters and their culture. It will, without a doubt, linger for a time. But I wish I had not gone down this path at all. Now I just feel miserable.

25 of 28 people found this review helpful

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I wanted to love it....

I love all of Fredrick Backman's previous books but this one seriousy missed the mark for me. I finished it purely out of loyalty to the author but struggled to do so. The story was sliced up and told in a jumbled mess and in weird summaries, almost like a string of short stories shuffled into one. Definitely no where near Ove.

21 of 25 people found this review helpful

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  • Mark
  • Waltham, MA, United States
  • 09-26-17

I liked this better than Ove!

I had enjoyed Backman's "A Man Called Ove." I did not like Britt-Marie was here, but took a chance on Beartown partly because of the subject (hockey) and partly on a strong rec from a friend. Well, I'm glad I did! This novel eventually drew me into its world in a way that rarely happens.This takes place in a rural part of a Scandinavia. They never specify the country, and it is written so that one can easily see it as occurring in rural Canada, or maybe Minnesota or North Dakota. Until "kroner" was mentioned, I was thinking this could be in North America. I guess it shows how similar a hockey culture can be in different countries.The first half of this book focuses on the game of hockey (a great game) and the hockey/jock culture (not a good thing) in this hockey crazy town. The "boys will be boys" mentality and star idolization result in an act of violence that rips this community apart. I loved this novel, in spite of its flaws. The biggest flaw was the fact that little happened over the first half of the book, The fact that I love hockey kept me interested enough. After initial confusion with so many characters, I finally got to know them all, and care about the people and this small town. An underdog junior team is vying for a national championship when a violent act turns things upside down. Heroism and bad behavior by adults and kids fill this fascinating novel. While maybe not for everyone, I really enjoyed this novel. I liked it even more than Ove! The narrator is great, and boosted this 4.5 star book up to a 5 star experience for me.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Backman is always a good bet

I never would have read this but that it was Fredrik Backman. I have loved his other books, and since I was reassured that it wasn't really much of a sports books by other reviewers, I thought, "okay!" Well, it really IS a book about sports, hockey in particular. But it gives us the human side of it. It helps those of us who have zero interest in competitive sports some understanding of why it is that some people are so crazy obsessed with it. It gets us in to the heads of the characters: the players, the spectators, the friends, the parents, the coaches, etc., and it shows the good, the bad, and the ugly. And it's Fredrik Backman, so it's packed with wisdom. Narrator was perfect!

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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good and not so good

characters were interesting, the plot held my attention but the whole thing could have been told more effectively without the ponderous wisdom that the author imposed on the story. it violates the first rule of fiction: show don't tell. he does both.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

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  • Janice
  • Sugar Land, TX, United States
  • 04-27-17

Bang . . . Bang . . . Bang

Bang – the impact of pucks and players slamming into the boards. Bang - the collision of opposing visions for a town and its beloved hockey team. Bang – conflicting emotions of children trying to fit in with the group while remaining distinctly individual. Bang – the devastating realization that parents just cannot protect their children from forces they can neither foresee nor control. Bang – Running headlong into the desperation and hypocrisy that has formed the character of an entire community, and how it must come to grips with their values when their world explodes because of one senseless act. Bang - the sound of guns in the forest.

A bright unforgiving light is turned on the worship of sports heroes, what it does to the young athletes, what it does to a community that places inhuman burdens on young shoulders to succeed for the glory of the town, and how those who don’t drink the kool-aid are marginalized, even dehumanized. This is a more sobering story than his previous novels, having little of the usual quirky humor to lighten the tone. The opening lines hit hard, setting an expectation of coming trouble, but then eases into a leisurely introduction to a vast cast of characters who will drive the story forward. The sentinel event doesn’t occur until half way through the book, so patience is required in spite of the building tension. Pay attention to the details of who these people are. It informs their reactions and behavior later on. But don’t cling to your early judgements. Once again Fredrik Backman has proved to have an astounding insight into human nature. His characters are realistically complex and he handles all of them – even the worst of them – with honesty and compassion. There are no easy answers when survival is on the line, and especially when parents are fighting for their children. This is not a depressing tale, but an enlightening one and one with the potential to spark conversation and self assessment.

The reading by Marin Ireland is perfect for all ages, genders and character. Another home run for this author.

23 of 28 people found this review helpful

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Friday Night Lights on Ice, parts by Hallmark Ch.


Think "Friday Night Lights on Ice," portions produced by Hallmark

Beartown, a small town isolated in the wilds of Sweden, is counting on its junior hockey team to bring home a national championship. This is The Year. The whole town is excited as many of the residents live, eat and breathe club hockey.

Unlike A Man Called Ove, not much about Beartown is subtle, particularly revelatory or, frankly, anything much outside the realm of predictable. Yet, Backman does well enough to provide an admirable story revolving around the rape of a 15-year-old girl by the hockey hero, and addressing the dangers of xenophobia, homophobia and classism.

Perhaps I have seen so many sports movies and read enough sports-themed books addressing similar topics that I wasn't nearly as impressed with this novel as with A Man Called Ove. I'd equate it to a good few episodes of "Friday Night Lights" on Ice, portions of which are being produced by The Hallmark Channel pursuant to its not-so-secret plot formulae.

The team's 17-year-old star player Kevin is a sure pro prospect and a spoiled rich brat whose dad pays no attention to him except to push him to win [there were just too many of these expected caricatures, or stereotypes, to be a winning novel]. His best friend, a closeted homosexual, is poor and his dad committed suicide when he was young. An up-and-comer speedy skater Amat, a 15-year-old immigrant, lives in the poor part of town with his mom, who works as the club's custodian.

Peter Andersson is the club's GM and the town's former hockey star who was a pro for a short while until an injury ended his career. Peter's daughter Maya, 15, has a puppy crush on Kevin.

After the team wins the semifinal game--of course, in the last minute after coming from behind--a rowdy party ends with Maya being raped violently by Kevin. Amat is the only witness after unwittingly walking into the room to effectively end the rape. Kevin's best friend passes Maya in his sister's car, sees she is beat up and walking home alone in the cold, but doesn't stop to offer her a ride. These two players face conflicts in the coming days. Kevin's dad tries to buy Amat's silence, and teammates push the two to toe the company line.

The fans want to railroad Peter out of town as GM after Maya reports the rape a week later, moments before the bus leaves for the championship game and I'll let you guess what happens in the final. Had Backman been a bit more low-key, he could have made much more out of the "blame the victim, pack mentality" of the town's fans and his idea of the "culture of silence ... foster[ing] a culture of winning." For example, if you are not clear about Backman's point that hockey players are "seen more as products than people," you are certain to be by the umpteenth reminder.

Backman is much better when his writing's more nuanced on themes of alienation and acceptance, particularly of Amat and Kevin's best friend. In the end though, Beartown contained way too many stereotypes (by rich, poor, and sports heroics) and bordered too often on the maudlin to be a book I could soundly recommend.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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Backman Can Write Any Point of View!

I've read most of Backman's books, and this author is amazingly talented. When I read "A Man Called Ove," I thought, this guy must know my daughters and their grandfathers, because the characters' interactions are spot on. When I read, "Britt-Marie Was Here," I thought, he must know an older woman who felt discarded, because she seems so real. In "My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry," I assumed he must have lived in an apartment building where his neighbors represented, all walks of life, because each character was alive and unique. Now, in "Beartown," I jokingly conclude that he is in fact a pseudonym for what must be a team of authors, each specializing in writing a certain point of view, because his representation of the human teenager was very accurate.

"Beartown" is about so many things: parenthood, navigating being a teen, the desperation that can engulf a small town into pack mentality. It touches on retirement and how it effects a sense of purpose. We see immeasurable loss, beating the odds, perseverance, abuse, revenge, forgiveness...and so much more.

From the above paragraph, you may think those are too many subjects to tackle in one book, but Backman makes it flow naturally and realistically.

At times, I felt that he was bordering on over description in regards to each character's inner thoughts, but as I read on, I came to appreciate the time he took to bring the reader into the characters' heads. Some may feel that the following is a spoiler, but I want to explain what I mean with an example, therefore, I'll preface the next section.

*Possibly could be considered a spoiler*

At one point, some boys throw a rock with an expletive written on it through a window. The mother/wife gets in her car and scares the boys in a way that could be perceived as unstable. But the reader has been inside her head. We've seen what she's been through. She's endured unimaginable loss. Outwardly, she seems abrasive and uncompromising, but the reader knows how much she has sacrificed for those she loves. You feel her desperation and helplessness and anger. Despite knowing how wrong it would have been, had she actually caused permanent damage, I found myself cheering her on; then, when she came to her senses, so did I. She wasn't insane; she had a temporary moment of insanity. Backman took a lot of time to get us inside her mind, and it allows the reader to understand her irrational behavior.

*End of possible spoiler*

What I like best about the book is the multiple layers given to each character. We see tough guys in moments of sensitivity. We see sensitive guys finding their strengths. It is easy to dismiss a character as universally shallow, until we see the character in a different environment and we watch them bloom into someone we'd like to know. Heroes make selfish/life altering choices and bullies evolve into better people.

I especially like the ending, because it felt so complete that I actually exhaled. This is a great book for discussion, and I'm encouraging my teen daughters to read it. The narrator's performance was spectacular in the audio version. I highly recommend it!

19 of 24 people found this review helpful

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Best book I've read since Fredrik's last book

I loved this book. It was a good soul searching book that really make you think about how you would act if you were placed in the middle of a controversy. Would you pick the side that of least resistance or would you chose the harder path? I highly recommend this book for teens AND adults as well.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful